10 things we learned from Serie A as Hakan Calhanoglu stars for Inter

Hakan Calhanoglu is the midfielder every team wants, AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli continues to bounce back and Napoli’s problems might be UNSOLVABLE… 10 things we learned from Serie A

  • Inter stormed back to the top of the Serie A standings with a win over Napoli
  • Meanwhile, Dusan Vlahovic’s penalty struggles continued for Juventus
  • Man City are vulnerable, but come the spring they will put on the afterburners. Leaders Arsenal must seize their moment now – Listen to It’s All Kicking Off

The race for the Serie A title is heating up after Inter Milan reclaimed top spot from Juventus with a valuable victory over Napoli.

It piled more misery on reigning champions Napoli who are quickly losing their status as one of the top teams in the league.  

Juventus again demonstrated their Scudetto credentials with a hard-fought win against Monza, but Dusan Vlahovic’s struggles in front of goal continued.

Hakan Calhanoglu demonstrated why he is the midfielder every coach wants with a stunning goal against Napoli, while there was drama elsewhere as Lecce goalkeeper Vladimiro Falcone won his side a penalty.

Mail Sport covers 10 key talking points from the latest Serie A action. 

Hakan Calhanoglu demonstrated why he is the league’s best striker with a stunning goal against Napoli

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1. Dusan Vlahovic’s penalty struggles continue

Vlahovic has missed four of the last seven penalties, a disturbing statistic considering he had previously scored all 12 of the penalties taken. The Serbian striker reiterated on the pages of the ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ that he wants to stay at Juventus, but he is sensationally wasting all the opportunities that his Juventus team-mates are creating for him. 

Against Monza he played one of the worst matches of the season, he never managed to raise the team and suffered more than he should have for the serious error made from the spot.

Vlahovic is not calm, he feels the media pressure of being Juventus’ central striker and at the moment both Moise Kean and Arek Milik offer better technical-tactical guarantees.

He played a negative game overall – missing a perfect assist from Federico Chiesa and lost his physical duel with Spaniard defender Pablo Marì. Vlahovic is only useful when he plays with his back to goal and in the few minutes he was on the pitch Milik did much more. 

Vlahovic is not considered a technical problem for Massimiliano Allegri but he could become one very soon, especially if he continues to play so badly.

Dusan Vlahovic has now missed four of his last seven penalties taken for Juventus

2. Calhanoglu is the midfielder every coach wants

Calhanoglu is the best midfielder in Serie A and his goal against Napoli was a masterpiece of strength, precision and elegance. Napoli goalkeeper Meret makes a useless flight and the ball shakes the stadium like an earthquake while the Inter fans rejoice. 

The Turkish midfielder has scored four goals in his last six games, as many as he had scored in the 39 previous games. A stat that demonstrates the great and constant growth of the former AC Milan star. At 29, he experiences a magical moment that projects him onto the podium of the best European midfielders, managing his playing time wonderfully. 

He is even stronger than Marcelo Brozovic who had a different tactical and technical consistency in the same role. Stanislav Lobotka and Zambo Anguissa failed in their approach to the match, crushed by the presence of the Turkish champion but also by the aggressiveness of Nicolo’ Barella. 

Inter’s midfield has strength superior to that of Napoli and Calhanoglu was the playmaker directing the game and  seems to be the only playmaker capable of making the team play quickly.

Calhanoglu is the best midfielder in Serie A and his goal against Napoli was a masterpiece of strength, precision and elegance

3. Stefano Pioli shows his bouncebackability once again

The difficult situation in the Champions League has aggravated Milan’s problems and made it complicated for the coach to continue his adventure at the helm of the Italian club. 

Yet, once again, Stefano Pioli, who at the end of October celebrated his 200th appearance with Milan, managed to get back up, giving the Rossoneri a fundamental victory against Matias Soule’s Frosinone. 

Every time the Milan coach seems to fall into negative results, he always manages to resurface and float on an emergency lifeboat, saving his bench. Now it will be important to recover all the injured players but the victory against Frosinone relaunches the championship ambitions of the Rossoneri team. 

Stefano Pioli again demonstrated his bouncebackability as AC Milan beat Frosinone

At a delicate moment in his career and in full defensive emergency, Pioli took a step back and decided to leave the team with the task of self-adjusting. He doesn’t invent anything strange, he doesn’t upset the tactical balances achieved and he doesn’t get caught up in the enthusiasm of wild changes. 

The feeling is that Pioli is a much loved coach in the dressing room and his ability to constantly communicate helps all players find immediate solutions, transforming problems and misunderstandings into solutions. 

Against Frosinone Theo Hernandez moved to the centre of defense and played a tactically perfect match and Pioli only understood and applied the will of the French left back.

4. Napoli’s struggles weren’t just Rudi Garcia’s fault

The physical, technical and psychological decline after starting the match with great competitive spirit are proof of the existence of unresolved, and perhaps unsolvable, problems of a Napoli which, even without Rudi Garcia on the bench, has many negative situations to fix. 

The team coached by Walter Mazzarri melted like snow in the sun and Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia were unable to score and reopen a match that definitively ousted Napoli from the title fight. 

Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli team melted like snow in the sun against Inter on Sunday

There are already unbridgeable gaps to the top and Mazzarri’s team has quickly abdicated the title of best team in Serie A. If the top players start to hide on the pitch it means that the whole team has understood that they are inferior to their opponent and this feeling is so evident that it is also understood by the Napoli fans. 

Azzurri are only aggressive in the first 20-minutes but subsequently decline and were lost in Inter’s tiki taka. Napoli’s defensive phase is not convincing and Natan is not a player worthy of replacing Kim Min-jae. Inter have to work a lot and try to create a team capable of reacting because the players are still too scared. 

A bad result erases the progress made against Atalanta and Real Madrid which effectively erases Napoli from being one of Serie A’s top sides.

5. Juventus must tie Adrien Rabiot down to a new deal

There is no midfielder in Serie A who has scored more goals than Adrien Rabiot. Since the start of last season the former PSG star has scored 13 goals, joining Atalanta’s Teun Koopmeiners and Lazio’s Felipe Anderson. 

His brilliant header against Monza is his second this season and helped Juventus break the deadlock against Raffaele Palladino’s team. He is the player most used by Allegri, to whom he is linked by a relationship of deep affection and friendship, but his leading role in this team would not be questioned by any coach: he is an irreplaceable top player for Juventus.

There is no midfielder in Serie A who has scored more goals than Adrien Rabiot

He is the best man in terms of quality and technique, especially now that Paul Pogba and Nicolo’ Fagioli are suffering forced spells of absence for non-footballing reasons. Allegri manages his favourite player with great serenity and Rabiot accepts his coach’s suggestions and criticisms. 

The assist for Federico Gatti’s decisive goal was a mix of physical power, speed and technique: his contract renewal must become a priority for Juventus because the French midfielder splits matches and raises a wall in the middle of the pitch.

6. Rasmus Kristensen is Jose Mourinho’s lucky invention

Rasmus Kristensen has led Jose Mourinho’s Roma and become the team’s unexpected hero after a terrible period. The former Leeds player had had a terrible starting impact in Serie A but is now the man of providence for Roma.

Kristensen transforms a negative match into an opportunity for revival, and is Mourinho’s lifesaver in a very delicate moment. The Danish midfielder, widely criticised by the Roma manager and fans, won the equalising penalty and fortunately scored before being awarded man of the match. 

Rasmus Kristensen has become Roma’s unexpected hero after a terrible period

He was a blonde hurricane cutting through Sassuolo’s defense and surprised with his extraordinary ability to thrive despite Roma’s initial disadvantage: it provided a decisive shock, erasing the fear of a defeat that would have opened a profound crisis in the club.

Kristensen is a Viking who seems to have a physique of steel and had the ability to intimidate his opponents and confuse Jeremy Toljan. Good and lucky, the former Leeds winger can be a pleasant surprise in the second part of the season, becoming a precious wildcard to Mourinho.

7. Now or never for Luka Jovic

Only one shot on target in 45 minutes and a goal, Luka Jovic broke his goalscoring drought and marked his first season with Milan after nine insufficient games full of criticism. 

He couldn’t have found a better way and time to unblock himself and relieve the pressure of his worsening performance since he was purchased by Milan as Olivier Giroud’s assistant. 

Jovic puts the definitive seal on his best match of the year with the precious assist for defender Fikayo Tomori’s goal and gives serenity to the fans of ‘Meazza’ stadium.

Luka Jovic broke his goalscoring drought in AC Milan’s win over Frosinone at the weekend

Jovic hadn’t scored for almost six months, precisely since May 27, when he was still wearing the Fiorentina shirt. On that occasion, he created a beautiful header against Milan, the very team that bought him outright on the last day of the summer transfer market. 

He finally broke a very long fast and gave hope to the Milan fans who expect a lot from him. After a good performance against Fiorentina, the Serbian striker finally hit the target with an acrobatic left foot and relaunched his candidacy as Milan’s star for the immediate future.

8. Lecce goalkeeper wins a crazy penalty

Wladimiro Falcone was the absolute protagonist of the day in Serie A after the Lecce goalkeeper secured the equalising penalty in the 95th minute against Bologna with an astute and lucky move. 

Contact between goalkeeper and defender Riccardo Calafiori convinced the referee to whistle for a spot-kick and striker Roberto Piccoli scored to level the game. Among the rare emotions there are those in which a goalkeeper scores a goal, as happened in Serie A to Michelangelo Rampulla, Massimo Taibi, Alberto Brignoli and Ivan Provedel in Champions League, but perhaps it is even rarer to see a goalkeeper earn a penalty. 

Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone won his side a stunning penalty against Bologna

This had never happened in Serie A until the episode starring Vladimiro Falcone. A precious point for Lecce moves them onto 15 points in the league standings and more importantly away from the relegation zone. 

Falcone has an impressive record on penalties: out of 31 career penalties he has saved 11, with an average of one penalty saved every four. A fact that places him among the best goalkeepers in Italy and Europe in this fundamental aspect. But this time Falcone instead scored one for Lecce.

9. Ruslan Malinovskyi shows what top clubs are missing out on

How did Ruslan Malinovskyi not find his way onto the radar of Italy’s top clubs? Malinovskyi scored a beautiful goal against Empoli that made the fans who flocked to the ‘Luigi Ferraris’ stadium overflow with joy and proves that he is a top player still on the road to full physical and mental recovery. 

He was the protagonist of an almost perfect match against Empoli, confirming himself at the same technical levels as the years he spent in Atalanta. If he had greater technical continuity, then he would be a player ready to play in a top club but the problems he had at Atalanta have compromised his growth. 

At 30 he still has four or five years at the top level and can build a better end to his career than previously expected. His time at Lyon was short and not particularly positive but returning to Serie A regenerated his talent. 

Ruslan Malinovskyi was the protagonist of an almost perfect match against Empoli

What highlighted a high-quality performance was his great desire to commit to becoming a total midfielder, capable of attacking and defending with the same intensity. In Atalanta, Gasperini preferred Teun Koopmeiners over him and Malinovskyi has worked hard in recent months. 

He has played 12 matches this season, scoring twice and providing a single assist, quickly recovering the tactical discipline required in Serie A. The Ukrainian star is no longer considered an attacking winger or striker but a complete player in the 3-5-2 designed by coach Alberto Gilardino.

10. Michele Di Gregorio is Monza’s spiderman

After saving Vlahovic’s penalty, Monza goalkeeper Michele Di Gregorio made a prodigious double stop, blocking both the first shot from 11-meters and the immediate follow-up effort, rejoicing as if he had scored a goal. 

The goalkeeper is in his second season in Serie A but has already demonstrated his extraordinary skills that could allow him to become a starter at a top Italian club: he is like Spiderman, he has great muscular elasticity and a very strong personality. Di 

Monza goalkeeper Michele Di Gregorio starred in defeat against Juventus at the weekend

Gregorio couldn’t do anything to counter Rabiot’s goal but he showed great mental strength in managing the most delicate moments of the match against Juventus, giving security to Monza’s defense and has improved with the ball at his feet. 

He disturbs his opponents with his gaze and body movement, he is a silent provocateur who manages to guarantees strong performances even in the most difficult matches. 

At this moment Di Gregorio is the best Italian goalkeeper in Serie A and deserves more attention from Luciano Spalletti for a more rewarding role in the Italian national team goalkeeping roster.


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